What does it mean to lift our hands in worship?

By November 14, 2019 A Note from PJ

What does it mean to lift our hands in worship?

In our times of worship, you might see people raising their hands. Perhaps this is new to you. What’s the purpose of lifted hands? For some, it’s a sign of surrender to God. It may be an act of adoration and praise. Or, it can be a visible expression of our dependence, like a young child who lifts up hands to a mother or father.

What we do know is that the Bible affirms the lifting of hands in worship. David was a song-writer and worshiper, and he writes, “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63:4).

From the time of Moses to the early church, it was common to lift up your hands in prayer to God (Exodus 9:29; 1 Timothy 2:8).

When King Solomon prayed at the temple, we read how he also “spread out his hands toward heaven” (1 Kings 8:22,38). No doubt he had often watched his father, David, do the same. We read again and again how the psalmist would come before the Lord: “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands…” (Psalm 28:2; 63:4; 77:2; 88:9; 141:2; 143:6). And, he encouraged others to do the same (Psalm 134:2)

The prophets came before the Lord in similar ways. In an act of humility, Ezra tells us, “I fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord” (Ezra 9:5). And during worship, he stood and “praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded ‘Amen!’” (Nehemiah 8:6; Lamentations 2:19).

Whether it’s lifting our hands, or kneeling, or bowing our heads, or closing our eyes, the most important posture is our “heart posture.” Am I surrendered to God? Have I received fresh forgiveness and determined—out of love for Him—to turn away from sin? Am I taken by His greatness, His beauty, His majestic power?

If my heart posture is pleasing to him, so is my worship. We are free—not required, but free—to express that through lifted hands. It may feel awkward at first, or we might feel self-conscious. Just remind yourself that whatever you do, you’re doing for Him! Let’s exalt Him together as we join in worship today.